Tag Archives: Fallen Star

visiting the fallen star

Last year I showed you some of the construction leading up to the installation of Fallen Star, this art installation by Korean artist Do Ho Suh. Basically it’s a tiny Providence, Rhode Island-style house and garden that has improbably landed on the edge of one of the engineering buildings at UCSD. The “landing” was a little rough, as you can see, so that the floor of the house is a few degrees off of level. The walls of the little house aren’t quite plumb, either–and don’t quite match the angle of the floor. The whole effect is pretty disorienting.

(You can click [ here ] to see all the other post I’ve done on this installation.)

Aside from creating an intriguing object set helplessly among the brutish concrete structures around, the artist is using the sense of disorientation to conjure up the sense of disorientation he felt when he came to this country to study at RISD. But in addition to the disorientation, he’s also interested in creating an oddly sheltering space. We find community wherever we can, even in the most unlikely places, in this case seven stories off the ground, jutting out alarmingly over the quad below.

I tried to visit on the first day the piece was open to the public. The crowd was way crazy, and it was like trying to view art at a gallery opening. Definitely not the best time.

So, when I got a chance to see it under much more civilized circumstances I jumped–no, let’s use a different verb: I went for it.

So…we approach the house from the adjacent building. The safety railing is perpendicular to gravity. As I’ve mentioned already, the house is not.

This is me, stepping into the slightly under-scaled, seriously slanted interior of the little house.

Most visitors’ first reactions will be to the off-kilter feeling of seeing the positions of house and furnishings not quite lining up with what your inner ear is telling you you should be seeing. The little chandelier in this photo is pretty much the only thing acknowledging gravity.

Looking out the door towards the house’s perch, you can get a really good sense of the crookedness.

Here’s the rest of my little group inside, next to the fireplace. After a few minutes you really start to feel queasy.

Once you get over the shock of the fun-house aspects of the piece you start to notice little touches: family photos, tchotchkes, lucid details that inhabit everyday life and memory. The inhabitant of the house is fictional, but you think that your Aunt Edith or Gramma Olive might have been models for her.

I thought the little views out the windows were especially poignant.

Just outside the house you sense that whoever lives here might just be a gardener. Who else would leave a concrete frog and Corona clippers right at the front door?

If the clippers weren’t enough of a clue, how about a bright green garden hose? Some people do their best to hide away their hose, but the kind of gardener who lives here would have nothing to do with all that silly fakery.

Outside gravity reigns. The plants know which way is up, and by this point you might need to sit down and remind yourself.

There are lots of ornamentals outside. The gentle yellow of this sunflowers looks great against the house’s clapboard exterior.

Morning glories were clearly enjoying their full sun exposure, even though this is about as exposed a spot for garden that you’ll find anywhere. In case you’re dying for the name of this variety–like I was–it’s the heirloom Carnevale di Venezia.

Grandma’s Olive’s fictional double also enjoys her summer vegetables. This is a brown pumpkin…

…and here’s a perfect Persian cucumber, a gift to me from the garden of the Fallen Star.

A perfect conclusion to an amazing tour.

the big install

I’ve been posting on the progress on the Fallen Star piece that Do ho Suh has designed for the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego. November 15 was the big day for it to get hoisted from the ground, where it was being built, to the rooftop, where it’ll spend the next many decades. Here are some pictures from before, during and after. Unfortunately life intruded and I was having to attend a meeting during the most dramatic part of the process, when the house first left the ground. But I at least got a few shots of the house dangling over its eventual perch.

The morning of the hoist: The exterior has just been complete, the clapboarding nailed, the chimney set.
The worksite around the Fallen Star. Yes, those are trees with autumn-colored leaves.
The house and the big hydraulic crane that will launch it.
One of the film crews settles into place
The worksite with the extended crane
The audience
The house 80+ feet in the air, being lowered onto its finale perch
And we have contact...

A closer view of the landed house

And here’s a Youtube video of the big hoist from the Jacobs School of Engineering, the school that is housed in the structure that the house landed on:

And another from a different viewpoint, more dramatic than the first. The first two minutes are the best:

And for you total junkies, yet another vantage point. Once again the first part is the most dramatic.

The piece a couple mornings later, after the removal of the cranes…

There’s still more work to do before the grand unveiling, a TV and fireplace to install inside, a garden to plant outside. But this was definitely a big milestone. I’ll post more once I get up on the roof and have some closeup views.

there was a crooked house

The house being built on the ground, with its eventual perch being readied high on the roof of the building behind it.

Here a few random construction photos that show the development of part of Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star installation that I posted on a few weeks ago [ here ]. I’m sure there are practical reasons for building the little house on the ground before hoisting it seven stories into the air to its perch on the side. But having it take shape at eye level has been interesting and exciting, and it’s a great way to involve future viewers of the artwork in the piece as it evolves from yards of concrete and stacks of steel beams.

As I view the piece come into being I can’t help but imagine being the construction firm approached to construct this little one-room building: “We want you to build us a house. Only much of it’s going to cantilevered over the edge of a tall building. And the house itself has to be built with a strong rake to the foundation, making the whole house slant at a serious angle…” A project like this doesn’t come along every day, and I’m sure somebody had some serious fun getting to work on it.

The steel fram takes shape. Here you can see there's lots more engineering in this project than most houses that nest on the ground.
Framing for windows being installed...
Sheathing going on...
The sheathed house, crooked on the horizon, at sunrise...
After the building wrap...
Foggy morning with the wrapped house, still crooked on the horizon...
Sheathing going up on the roof...
Shingles now in place...


At this point the project has progressed to where stuff is happening on the inside, but it’s a mystery to outside viewers. The next big milestone will be when the exterior sheathing with its bouncy blue color shows up. Stay tuned.

Aerial rendering of the project location showing the rooftop with the crooked house and garden.

I touched base with the Stuart Collection folks about the “garden” around the house. Yes, it’s going to be live plants. The intent is to make the garden look a bit like the house, as if house and garden are little slice of Provincetown that have flown and and been wedged into the California fabric.

There are probably thousands of Southern California houses with clapboard siding and gardens with hydrangeas and roses that would be good models for what the artist is trying to achieve. As much as these gardens require lots of added water and attention to get them to thrive, the real stunt will be to try to pull off the effect when the house and garden will be elevated seven stories into the air. The collection is working with a landscape architect to come up with a mix of plants that will represent the botanical displacement but also be plants that will survive life on the edge, exposed to the elements.

It shouldn’t be that much longer before this house gets lifted into place. I suspect they’ll be using cranes and not a giant flock of balloons, even though several of you have commented on how much the plans for the house make it out to be a dead-ringer for the flying house in Up. More pictures to follow…